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Do you want to see a better future for nature?

For the past 50 years, habitat loss has led to a drastic decline in nature. Wildlife populations are the lowest they have ever been, and once common species could be lost forever. By helping nature’s recovery, we can halt the decline in nature, and create a wilder future.

But current UK Government plans would mean less nature in England in 20 years’ time. This is not good enough.  

We cannot allow the nature crisis to continue.

Demand more for nature. Show the UK Government you want a wilder future by supporting our call for ambitious species abundance targets in the Environment Act by signing our petition. 

Will you help us to demand more for nature?

Want to know more about why this is important? We’ve got you covered

What are the targets within the Environment Act?

Legally binding targets for recovery are important as these drive action and can lead to more conservation interventions, for example beaver reintroductions and peatland restoration. It should also ensure greater enforcement of regulations designed to protect nature. 

Why are these targets important?

Legally binding targets for recovery are important as these drive action and can lead to more conservation interventions, for example beaver reintroductions and peatland restoration. It should also ensure greater enforcement of regulations designed to protect nature. 

Why aren’t the Government’s targets ambitious enough?

The UK Government wants to ‘halt the decline in our wildlife populations through a legally binding target for species abundance by 2030 with a requirement to increase species populations by 10% by 2042’. This means wildlife populations would continue to decline until 2030, before improving by 10%. Essentially, this will mean that nature will be in the same state it is now, in 20 years time. We are already in a nature crisis, and this is not good enough. 

What difference can I make?

The UK Government promised to “leave nature better than it found it”. But by setting such a low target for nature’s recovery by 2042, when overall decline isn’t expected to halt until 2030, we’ll end up in a worse situation than today.

Increasing wildlife populations is key to improving the air quality, water quality and the overall environment– making the UK Government’s targets so important.

By signing our petition, above, and calling for a Wilder Future, you will be showing the Government that their targets need to be more ambitious.

Can I respond to the consultation directly?

Yes! It’s a fairly complex consultation covering a wide range of topics including wildlife populations, water and air quality and waste. You are welcome to use our guidance to submit your own response.

Below we have set out The Wildlife Trusts’ recommendations for how the Government should reconsider the ambition of its targets for species abundance, the condition of protected sites, and water quality.

Remember, the more you personalise your response, the more likely it is to be counted. 

We recommend that you include and answer the following questions in particular:

Question 8: Do you agree or disagree with the level of ambition of a 10% increase proposed for the long-term species abundance target?

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Don’t Know

Question 9: [If disagree] What reasons can you provide for why the government should consider a different level of ambition?

You can directly respond to the consultation, or email your response to the consultation team: environmentaltargets@defra.gov.uk. The consultation closes on 27 June.

Further details and guidance to help your response

Legally binding targets are the centrepiece of the Environment Act’s framework for restoring nature. If done well, these can provide the long-term certainty needed to drive action and investment in environmental restoration and ensure that future governments are held accountable for their action on nature. 

Unfortunately, these initial proposals are limited in both scope and ambition. The final targets are due to be laid before Parliament in October – the proposals must be strengthened in order to live up to the Government’s promise of passing on nature in better condition for the next generation. 

The Wildlife Trusts would like to see three major changes to the current proposals: 

  • A stronger species abundance target

The target to increase the abundance of wildlife by 10% by 2042 compared to 2030 levels is too weak and too uncertain. If, as expected, wildlife continues to decline for the rest of the decade, it could mean that wildlife is less abundant by 2042 than it is now. This falls short of the Government’s promise to pass on nature to the next generation in better condition.  

Instead, the Government should set a target to increase the abundance of species (both marine and terrestrial) by at least 20% by 2042 compared to 2022 levels. 

  • A target for protected sites condition

The extent and quality of habitats are crucial to nature’s recovery. At the moment, just 38% of SSSIs in England are in favourable condition, despite being some of the most precious sites for nature. Yet the Government has not proposed a statutory target to improve the state of protected sites, despite its commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to ensure that three quarters are in good condition. 

The Government should set a habitats target for at least 75% of our finest wildlife sites (like Sites of Special Scientific Interest, SSSIs) to be in ‘favourable’ condition by 2042. 

  • An overall target for water

We have some of the worst-quality rivers in Europe. In England, only 14% of rivers achieve ‘good ecological status’. Pollution from agriculture, sewage, roads and plastics is destroying freshwater habitats and making our rivers dangerous for both humans and wildlife. Currently River Basin Management Plans set a target for improvement, but after 2027 there will be no overall target holding the Government to account.  

Alone, the four targets proposed in the consultation will be insufficient. We could see improvements in pollution from particular sources, whilst the overall health of our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coasts continues to decline. In particular, agricultural water pollution is overlooked and the target for water companies does not cover nitrates or sewer overflows. 

The Government should set a long-term “outcome” target for at least 75% of rivers, streams and other freshwater bodies to reach an overall “clean waters” status by 2042, in addition to stronger targets for pollution reduction and abstraction reduction.